Warning: This article includes spoilers for No Time to Die.
Daniel Craig’s widely celebrated stint as James Bond has come to a hugely satisfying conclusion with the release of No Time to Die. From the relentless opening fight scene of Casino Royale, Craig established his take on the 007 character as a decidedly dark one.
But he faces some stiff competition for the title of the darkest take on Bond. In Timothy Dalton’s brief but memorable tenure in the role, his Bond’s troubled psychology and hard-hitting violence marked a refreshingly grim change of pace following the slapstick-flavored Roger Moore era.
10 Craig: Casino Royale Pushed The Boundaries Of The PG-13 Rating
The violence in Casino Royale seriously pushed the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. The fight scenes are brutal, like when Bond beats two goons to death in a stairwell (and traumatizes Vesper in the process), and fans were shocked by the stomach-churning torture scene involving a seatless chair.
9 Dalton: He Went On A Personal Revenge Mission To Kill A Drug Lord
After Dalton’s Bond was introduced in The Living Daylights, his second and final movie License to Kill explored the full extent of his dark side. The movie’s central conflict is basically 007 versus Scarface.
While most Bond movies revolve around an official MI6 investigation, License to Kill sees Bond going on a personal revenge mission. When Felix Leiter’s wife is murdered by drug kingpin Franz Sanchez, Bond drops everything to go on a vengeful rampage.
8 Craig: He Suffers From PTSD
In the opening sequence of Skyfall, after Bond has chased a perp onto the roof of a moving train, Moneypenny accidentally shoots him and he drops 300-odd feet from a bridge into a river below.
After this incident, Bond is shown to suffer from severe PTSD. In the second act of the movie, he needs months off and extensive therapy before he can return to the field. In No Time to Die, he’s shown to still be reeling from Vesper’s untimely passing.
7 Dalton: He’s Stone-Cold
Following the wackiness of Roger Moore’s Bond, which got the franchise stuck in a rut, the sobering cold-heartedness of Dalton’s Bond provided a sharp counterpoint that dragged the franchise out of that rut.
Dalton made a conscious decision not to play the character with an endearing warmth. His emotional detachment feels more realistic and his coldness is fascinating.
6 Craig: He Left Dominic Greene In The Desert With Nothing But A Can Of Motor Oil
After the critical acclaim of Casino Royale, the response to Quantum of Solace was much more negative. Many reviews noted that it felt more like a generic action thriller than a Bond movie.
Still, it culminates in a delightfully gruesome death scene for the villain, Dominic Greene. 007 decides to spare his life, but that turns out to be even crueler than killing him. He leaves Greene stranded in the scorching desert with nothing to drink but a can of motor oil. It doesn’t get much darker than that, in spite of the terrible things Greene did to deserve it.
5 Dalton: He Doesn’t Hesitate To Use His License To Kill
One of the most recognizable motifs of the Bond franchise is 007’s “license to kill,” which gives him free rein to murder whoever he wants. Dalton’s Bond uses this license a lot more liberally than the other Bonds. He kills as second nature, barely registering his own morose actions.
The reason why Dalton’s second Bond movie is called License to Kill is that he utilizes it a lot more than his peers. In that movie, he uses his license to kill to murder a bunch of people that he has a personal problem with, not official enemies of MI6.
4 Craig: He Has A Short Temper
Traditionally, Bond isn’t a very angry character. Instead, he responds to situations he doesn’t like with wry cynicism. One of the things that set Craig’s Bond apart is that he has a short temper.
When he’s interrogating Blofeld, it doesn’t take much pushing to get him to snap and strangle him. When Safin infects him with the Heracles virus, meaning he can never hold his daughter or the love of his life ever again, he impulsively shoots the villain dead. Craig’s Bond has always been defined by his rage.
3 Dalton: He’s A Rogue Agent
Craig’s Bond was known to bend the rules every now and then to suit his investigation, but he always remained loyal to Her Majesty’s Secret Service and its protocols.
In License to Kill, Dalton’s Bond left MI6 behind and went rogue. Throughout the movie, he operates by his own set of rules, more like a vigilante than a secret agent.
2 Craig: He Made The Ultimate Sacrifice
By far the biggest surprise in No Time to Die is the death of James Bond. After contracting Safin’s deadly virus without enough time to get off the island, Bond grimly determines that he won’t make it out of this one alive. He reopens the blast doors and waits for the nukes to wipe him out along with the bioweapons plant.
This shocking twist made Craig the first 007 to be killed off on-screen. For such a monumental moment, it didn’t disappoint. Bond accepted death with grace and went out in morbid style.
1 Dalton: He Dug Into Bond’s Psychology
For the sake of making 007 a likable action hero, most Bond movies gloss over the fact that he’s a remorseless killer who takes human lives to earn his keep. Dalton dug deeper into the darker side of Bond’s psychology than any of the other actors.
The Bond written by Ian Fleming in the source material was tormented by his dark deeds, and Dalton was the first actor to bring that version of the character to the screen.
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